A Brief History of TAAN


  • In the depths of the Great Depression
  • By Mason Barlow, a small agency guy in Chicago
  • The Goals:
    • “To share experience and expertise”
    • “To provide branch office services”
    • “To help clients expand from regional to national”

1936: A humble beginning

  • Originally named National Advertising and Promotion Group (NAPG)
  • Began with 15 charter members
  • There were no dues
  • Barlow ran the show
  • There were no meetings

1938: Barlow goes out of business

  • NAPG records were locked in a vacated office
  • Milwaukee member, Charles Meissner bribes doorman, gets records
  • Meissner volunteers to lead the group
  • Still no meetings, no dues

1940: First Meeting held in Chicago

  • Meissner elected “National Director”
    • No salary
  • $50 annual dues
  • Name changed to Transamerica Advertising Agency Network (TAAN)

1941 – 42:

  • Annual meetings held in Denver and St. Louis in smoke-filled rooms (ahhh the good old days!)

1943 – 45:

  • No meetings during World War II
  • Communication and cooperation continue

1946: Meetings resume

  • Charles Bohlan (St. Louis) named National Director
  • Proposes making TAAN a corporation – with him owning controlling shares
  • Idea is unanimously rejected
  • Bohlan quits

1949: Meet in New Orleans

  • System of regional governors and regional meetings established
  • One network-wide meeting per year

1950 – 1963: Steady growth

  • But nobody takes notes for 13 years
  • Six agencies join
  • Regular meetings held

1963: Mackinac Island Meeting

  • Vote to limit membership to 30 US members.

1965: Charles “Ram” Ramsey Elected to Lead

  • Retired head of Phillips-Ramsey,San Diego member
  • First head of network not also operating agency
  • Title changed from National Director to President

1966: First International Member Joins

  • Howard Panton, Ltd., London

1967: Second International Member

  • Harrison Marketing Counsel, Toronto

1968: Third International Member

  • Sankosha Advertising Agency, Ltd., Tokyo
  • Instantly becomes TAAN’s largest member

1969: First Non-US Meeting

  • Hosted by Howard Panton Agency in London
  • Jay Tallant’s Denver agency joins (would become TAAN president 1977 – 1987)

1970: Regional Meetings Discontinued

  • Decision to meet twice yearly
  • Second Non-US based meeting held in Tokyo
  • Jack Warner’s New York agency joins (would become TAAN president 1987-1997)

1970: Consultant Hired

  • To determine feasibility of incorporating as a holding company
  • Finding: Not feasible due to independence and diverse personalities of members

1970: Benchmarks

  • Capitalized billings: $36.4 million
  • 19 members
  • 283 employees
  • Largest member: $4.5 million capitalized

1972: First “shared” client

  • Mr. Steak, client of San Diego member
  • 4 TAAN members handle regional media buying
  • Budgets dry up due to franchisee disagreements

1973: TEAN Formed in Europe

  • Trans Europe Advertising Agency Network
  • Formed as sister network to US group
  • US network changes name to Transworld Advertising Agency Network
  • Network runs 3 ads in WSJ

1974: Amsterdam Joint Meeting

  • TAAN President and Board of Governors attend TEAN meeting in Amsterdam
  • Network consists of 19 US members
  • 2 international
  • Average capitalized billings: $3.6 million (about $500K AGI)

1976: Jay Tallant Elected

  • Head of Denver member
  • Required to extricate from agency management by end of first 5 year term
  • President to be paid salary for first time

1977: TAAN / TEAN Meet

  • First joint meeting held in Barcelona
  • Agree to meet “periodically”

1978: New Mission Statement

  • Focuses on “improvement of management systems and skills.”
  • Minimum size established for new members: $4-million capitalized (about $600K AGI)
  • Exceptions considered

1979: Winter Meet in Hawaii

  • Schedule changed from 2 day winter and 5 day summer
  • New schedule: 2 full days, one half day, twice a year, spanning weekend

1979: Conflict Resolution

  • Policy established governing geographic exclusivity and conflicts
  • First Workshop held: In Memphis for creative directors

1979: New Services

  • Computer co-op formed to create uniform accounting system
  • Newsletter begun ($25 fine for not contributing)
  • Expertise Audit begun

1980: TAAN / TEAN Meet in London

  • 9 US members now own their own buildings
  • First joint venture between US agencies: Atlanta and San Francisco handle National Pecan Marketing account
  • Norman Field (London) becomes director of TEAN

1981: Pooling Resources

  • Several members share costs of Dun & Bradstreet, Arbitron, Telmar services
  • Executive exchanges and seminars
  • Morton Simon named legal counsel

1982: Joining hands

  • 4 TEAN members attend US meeting in Toronto
  • Australia, Japan and Hong Kong also attend
  • Gary Lessner’s Hartford agency joins (would become TAAN president 1997 – 2007)

1983: First “Graduation”

  • Phillips-Ramsey (San Diego) outgrows its membership
  • Resigns in order to expand into existing TAAN markets
  • New presidents at nearly half of agencies

1983: Sharing & Caring

  • Knoxville (Davis Newman Payne) produces TV spots for several members
  • Computers now being used for word processing, type-setting, research, media buying, financials
  • Collections become a huge problem: Interest rates top 16%!

1985: Meeting on Cape Cod in Nor’easter

  • New TAAN Plan redefines primary objective: “To promote a vital, confidential, personal resource for the CEO managing his/her agency profitably”
  • Now 23 US members; 4 international


  • TAAN legal counsel upgraded as Doug Wood is appointed
  • Atlanta member, Bowes-Hanlon, is named by Adweek as Southeast’s “hottest agency”

1987: Jack Warner, President

  • Bowes-Hanlon declares bankruptcy (The lesson learned: “We believed our own PR.”)
  • Bill Ling hosts meeting in Hong Kong.
  • First female-run agency joins (Martz, Phoenix)

1988: Managing growth

  • By-Laws changed to eliminate territorial protection
  • Gentlemen’s Agreement to govern competition; conflicts referred to president and board of governors to arbitrate
  • Guest speaker from Apple demonstrates “desktop publishing”

1989: New Service

  • Dallas-based CPA named as first financial advisor to TAAN
  • Average size of members: $17 million capitalized (about $2.4 million AGI)


  • First (and only) TAAN agencies merge: Denver and San Francisco members join to handle Hewlett-Packard business
  • Robert Jan Anjema (Netherlands) becomes president of TEAN

1991: Recession

  • Major meeting topic is survival
  • Rampant downsizing
  • La Agencia de Orci (Los Angeles) is TAAN’s first (and only) Hispanic agency
  • New financial counsel: Dwyne Willis

1992: Recession Worsens

  • Many members now at half size
  • Dan Wieden (Wieden & Kennedy) guest speaker
  • TEAN changes name to TAAN Europe
  • Special workshop held: “Managing Mac in Creative & Production”

1993: Ongoing improvements

  • TAAN Plan 2000 developed
  • Upgrading membership and meeting content emphasized
  • “Integrated marketing” new buzz phrase
  • CFO Workshop held

1994: New ideas

  • Meetings focus on creativity
  • “Re-engineering” concept introduced as LA knocks down all walls in agency
  • Other emerging issues: account planning, database marketing


  • Members report increasing movement to fee-based compensation
  • LA reports failure of re-engineering. Walls rebuilt.
  • Two workshops held: Creativity, Productivity

1996: TAAN’s 60th Anniversary!

  • Lake Tahoe meeting: something called “the Internet” comes up
  • CPA Jerry Langsner named new financial advisor.
  • Pete Gerritsen’s Boston agency joins (would become TAAN president in 2007).

1997: Transition

  • Dramatic drop in membership: 3 agencies bought, 2 out of business, 1 no longer viable – only 13 remain
  • Gary Lessner assumes presidency
  • New members in Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Wilmington recruited

1998: Meet in Sydney

  • Members vote to pay for guest speakers
  • US meeting schedule changed to one full day, 2 half days
  • Side trip to Great Barrier Reef
  • At Napa meeting, agency websites discussed (only 2 members have one)

1999: Sankosha fails

  • Largest TAAN agency ($258-million; 5 offices) collapses amid scandal
  • First TAAN website developed by Allen & Gerritsen
  • Email becomes dominant mode of network communication
  • Most members now have websites

2000: TAAN US & Europe Unite

  • At Dusseldorf meeting, Europe members vote to centralize operations with US
  • TAAN president Gary Lessner to run united network; US and Europe meetings
  • TAAN joins 4 other networks as charter members of Network Summit

2001: 9/11, Dot.Com Bust

  • World Trade Center attack and dot.com bust suppress growth, activity for 3 years
  • Agencies struggle to survive, grow, adapt to new technologies

2002: Global Meeting in Amsterdam

  • Vote to hold global meetings every 3 years rather than 5
  • New website goes online
  • US meeting schedule changed to 3 half-days

2003: New looks

  • New TAAN Plan developed: emphasis on improved meeting content, recruitment
  • TAAN recruitment video shot at Kiawah Island meeting
  • Two workshops held: Media Directors in Memphis, CFOs in NY

2004: Asian Expansion

  • India joins – recruits new members in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok
  • Credit card payments for dues, meeting expenses now accepted

2005: Global Meeting in NYC

  • Members vote to hold global meetings every 2 years
  • Argentina, Brazil and Mexico City join, opening TAAN to Latin America
  • CFO Workshop held in NY
  • US capitalized billings: $314 million ($47 million AGI; Avg member $2.8 million)

2006: Mid-east, Africa join

  • Pete Gerritsen elected to become TAAN president in 2007
  • Dubai, UAE and Lagos, Nigeria join, extending TAAN’s global reach to Middle East and Africa

2007: Global growth

  • Global meeting in New York City attended by 28 agencies from 16 countries
  • TAAN membership now at 46 agencies in 29 countries… and growing
  • Pete Gerritsen is new President
  • New website designed by DigitalDay, TAAN’s first all-interactive agency, goes online